Friday, January 4, 2019

Five Things Friday: WDW Marathon Edition


Image result for disney celebration gif

This marathon has really crept up on me- it feels like yesterday Matthew and I were debating about which races we wanted to do this year. Despite feeling a little unprepared, I am so excited for all the fun that comes along with the WDW Marathon Weekend. Without any other fanfare, here's a quick Five Things Friday all about my favorite things at one of my favorite race weekends of the year!

1. The Expo

2018 Expo.

For as crowded as the expo has been the last few years, I still absolutely love checking out all the booths, looking at all the unique Disney and runDisney merchandise, and browsing all the cool running-related vendors. This year, I'm excited that they've made some changes to the layout of the expo (added another building) and I'm hopeful this will cut down on some of the congestion... and maybe have added some new vendors! 

2. Cigna Blogger Meet-Up

Racing through a scavenger hunt in Hollywood Studios in 2017.

For the last few years, I have been invited to the Cigna Blogger Meet-Up at WDW Marathon Weekend. This event is always a blast and I love hanging with new and old friends. This year, we will be in Epcot for the afternoon- keep an eye on instagram and twitter (both @sparklyrunner) for updates about the event!

3. Running Ohana

Meet-up before the 2018 marathon.

Even though we get to see our running Ohana a few times a year, meeting up at Disney is a special event. We met the majority of our crew for the first time during the inaugural Dopey Challenge in 2014 and that's when we established the pre-race meet-up. It's become one of my favorite parts of our "routine" during Marathon Weekend and always helps calm my pre-race nerves when I can hang with dear friends beforehand. 💜 

4. Spectating at Disney

Spectating at Cinderella's Castle in 2015.

Spectating races is fun already, but when you add in thousands and thousands of runners and Mickey Mouse?! So. Much. Fun. Because I'm only running one of the four races this weekend, I'm looking forward to cheering on runners during the other three races. 

5. Running Down Main Street USA

TFW the castle comes into view.

Nothing compares to running down Main Street USA during a race. The picture above is from my first marathon- I'll never forget the overwhelming emotions I experienced when I ran towards the castle back in 2014. It's still one of the main reasons I love this race so much- I can't wait to see it again in just a few days!

Will you be at WDW Marathon Weekend? What are you looking forward to?

Monday, December 10, 2018

What Running Taught Me About Graduate School

Hi, friends.

It's been one hell of a semester.

As you know, I changed jobs last March, we bought a house in June, and I started my doctorate in September.

With the demands of a 40+ work week and taking two doctorate classes and training for the WDW Marathon, I have not had much time in my life for much else this semester, including updating this blog. In fact, this is the first non-academic thing I've written in about three months.

In my absence from the blog, I realized something; marathon training has been surprisingly helpful in surviving graduate school. I've long held the belief that training for and running a marathon is life-changing in a multitude of ways and this past semester confirmed it.

I've been anxious to post here again (it's amazing what time and distance can do for a hobby) and I thought this parallel between marathons and graduate school was worth writing about... and I might be procrastinating a little on turning in my final paper. 😜

What Running Taught Me About Graduate School

You can't train for a marathon overnight.

The marathon is not a race you can fake. You can't start training a week before the race and show up to the starting line expecting a miracle. You have to put the work in, day in and day out, for several months to prepare. Eventually, it will get easier. Same thing in grad school; you can't wait until the night before to start a paper. Doctoral work isn't a 5k- you can't skim your textbook and then cross your fingers that you'll ace the exam. You have to actually read the books and the articles. You have to write. A lot. You can't just expect to reach the level you need to as a doctoral student without putting in the time and work.

Run the mile you're in.

A marathon is 26.2 miles. It's easy to be crushed by thinking about how far you have to go- especially when you're only a mile or two in. So you have to run the mile you're in, focusing only on where you are now. If you look too far ahead, it will seem impossible; 'how the hell am I going to run 20-something more miles?' So you keep your mental energy on the mile you're in right at that moment. You'll never get to mile 26 without getting through miles one, two, three, etc. Similarly, I'll never get to graduation without getting through these first six credits. If I worry too much about what will happen next semester or next year, I'll never get through the classes I'm in right now. And I can't get to next semester without successfully getting through this one first.

Support is critical.

Running and training for a marathon require support. Maybe it's a coach, maybe it's family, maybe it's a random running group you met through the internet. Maybe they run with you, maybe they cheer you on from afar, or maybe they always have food and coffee waiting for you after a long run. Having people in your corner is what makes all the tough days bearable. And in graduate school, there are plenty of tough days. My cohort of 20 other doc students helps me significantly. They make me laugh, help answer questions, and just validate the wild experience we are having in class. And having Matthew as my cheerleader has been nothing short of phenomenal. He understands how demanding graduate school is and works so hard to make sure I feel supported. I could have never made it through this first semester without him.

IUP's DeD in Administration and Leadership Cohort 20.
My biggest cheerleader.

You have to keep showing up, even when it sucks.

Marathon training is not all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes I don't want to get up and run- I'd rather sleep in and drink coffee on the weekends than have to run 10+ miles in the cold. Sometimes life is busy and I don't have time to run. Sometimes my long runs are an absolute miserable slog and I can't wait until they're over. Just like with school assignments that I don't always feel like doing or classes that I don't want to sit through; I have to keep showing up. When it's hard, when it's boring, when it's not fun- I still have to show up.

Don't compare yourself to others; you do you.

In the world of social media we live in today, it's easy to compare yourself to others, especially when it comes to running. I often find myself looking at someone else's mileage or pace and wondering why I can't be that fast or run that many miles. It's depressing. When training for a marathon, you have to be insular. You have to focus on you and your training plan- and you have to trust that you have it in you to finish what you started. Same with school. I can't compare myself with other people in my classes or people who have already earned the degree. I can't measure my progress with someone else's yardstick; I have to focus on my path and getting to the goals I've set for myself.

Besides running a marathon, graduate school at this stage in my life has been the most challenging thing I've ever attempted.

But the marathon has also taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned: I can do hard things.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Race Recap & Review: 2018 Harrisburg Half Marathon

Earlier this month, I ran the Harrisburg Half Marathon for the third time. I'd previously run this race in 2014 and 2017 but this year was a totally different experience because of the weather. It poured down rain before, during, and after this 13.1 mile journey through Pennsylvania's capital city. Not sprinkled, not lightly rained, it POURED.

Let's rewind and start at the beginning, shall we?

Some of our running ohana were in town to run this race. Nathan missed running this last year because of hurricane Irma (he lives in Orlando, FL) so he was able to defer to 2018. Steff and Joe (and their 12 week old golden retriever puppy, Thorsten!) drove in from Pittsburgh so Steff could run the half. Since this race was on a Sunday, we were able to spend a rainy Saturday going to local breweries and showing off some of the excellent beers in our hometown.


I mean, really? This face!

Saturday night, we all started obsessively checking the weather. It had been in the 90's earlier that week but the forecast for race morning was rainy and cold- in the 50's. We all talked about what we were going to wear for the race and then I remembered my father-in-law gave us construction grade garbage bags the last time they visited- perfect for a rainy run! (thanks, Les!) With the garbage bags packed and our race-day outfits laid out, we did our best to rest and not think too much about the impending cold rain that we were going to spend hours in the next day.

Altra Timps to the rescue for a rainy run!

Sunday morning greeted us with windy, cold temperatures, and pouring rain. UGH. For only the second time in my running career, I considered not running this race and just getting brunch somewhere indoors and warm. But, I got dressed anyway and piled into the car with my running ohana to make the 45 minute drive to downtown Harrisburg.

The last time I was dry all day.

When we got to the race, we had about 30 minutes to kill before the start. We all grabbed an umbrella and stood in the port-o-potty line (which wasn't too long, thankfully) so we could take care of all our pre-race business. 😏

Can you tell who's the most excited for this race?

As we made our way back to the car, we talked about our post-race meet-up plans. Since none of us were carrying phones because of the rain- and because we knew we'd want to warm up immediately after we finished- we decided that we would meet back at the car. After putting the umbrellas away, we donned our garbage bags and walked the short distance from the car to the start line...which had actually been blown down by the wind (they got it back up and standing before the race start). Fabulous!

Since I have no pictures of the race to help me remember the mile-by-mile recap, here's the short list of everything I experienced/thought about during the race:

  • Holy crap, it's cold. The wind is blowing rain into my face. Awesome.
  • Ok, someone has drinks... oh, it's Fireball! Yay, shots!
  • Wow, that warmed me up. Coming up on mile three and feeling ok.
  • Oh yeah, I remember this part, we are headed to the trail.
  • Wow, there are tons of puddles on the trail! It's like a damn mud run out here!
  • I'm so glad I wore the Timps. Altra trail shoes are awesome in the mud. 
  • Ok people, it's just a puddle! We're already wet- just run through it!
  • Thank god we're off the trail... oh shit, the road is full of puddles too.
  • First runners coming through- they're at mile 11 and I'm at 7. Damn, I've still got a ways to go.
  • Oooooh, more Fireball! Thank you!
  • I've worn this bag for nine miles and it's getting hot. Time to make a garbage bag cape. 
  • There's Matthew! Hello, love! Mid-race kisses are the best!
  • Ok, mile 10, time to ditch the garbage bag.
  • And we've got one more Fireball station- awesome!
  • Holy crap, I think that puddle went up to my knee. I can either laugh or cry at this point, ha!
  • Inching closer to the finish line... damn, my hips hurt. I've got to train better. 
  • There it is! Almost done! Thank God! Only a few minutes off my goal time, awesome!!

Initially, I was hoping for a sub-2:30 at this race. After just missing it in May at Pittsburgh, I had been hopeful (earlier in the summer) that I could reach that goal. But after a lackluster few months of training, I was ecstatic that I was able to bust out a 2:34:08 in those horrible weather conditions.

If you want to see just how awful the weather was, here's a great gallery of pictures from PennLive, one of the local newspapers. Luckily, I have just one image from the race (courtesy of PennLive), and I think it's pretty rad. 😜

Living my best life.

Directly after finishing the race, I snapped a couple of pictures and headed to the warm car. From previous years, I knew there would be tons of food at the finish line but honestly, I just wanted to be warm and dry so I bee-lined it for the car. We decided to celebrate our race finishes with a trip to Troeg's Brewery for lunch and beers and then stopped at Hershey's Chocolate World for post-race chocolate snacks. All in all, it was a good day. 

While I can't say that I prefer to run in the rain, I can say that it's not terrible. I kinda feel this way about rain: there's nothing you can do about it so you might as well try to enjoy it. After all, we humans are wash and wear; we will dry out... eventually. 😜

Have you ever run a race in less than desirable conditions? How did you cope?

Monday, August 20, 2018

"To Everything There is a Season"

Hello, strangers!

It's been nearly a month since I've posted here.. and I'm kinda ok with that.

Oh, by the way, just listen to this song while you read this post and it'll all make sense. 😉

This summer has been pretty damn exhausting but in a really good way.

I got a new job. We bought a house. I'm going back to school in less than 30 days. All great stuff.

But all that good stuff doesn't come without a trade off. Work and the house have consumed much of my time. My running/working out has come close to a halt and my weight? Ha! I'm the heaviest I've been in about three years. After working all weekend on our garden, beers with my husband on our deck have been taking priority over other things.

And I'm kinda ok with it.

There truly is a season for everything in life- and right now is not a season of top running form or being at my goal weight. This doesn't mean I'm giving up- on my health or this blog. But it does mean that things might change around here just a bit.

I'm going to post when I want to and when I have something to say that I think should be shared. I'm still training for the 2019 Walt Disney World Marathon (because doing that and going back to school sounded like a great idea a few months ago!) and will be posting training updates here over the next few months. And I've got a great race schedule this fall so look for those race recaps. And you know I'll still be posting chronicles of my slow running on instagram. 😜

My weight is another story. I am struggling; probably more so than I have been at any time over the last five years. Day in and day out, I am following my program, staying within my daily smart points. I make (mostly) good choices and follow the healthy habits I've built up over the last half-decade.

But the scale isn't moving. My clothes don't fit. I'm starting to feel uncomfortable in my skin the way that I did when I was 50+ pounds heavier.

And it sucks. A whole lot.

Why am I gaining weight? It might be that my activity level has decreased significantly. It could be that my job is significantly more stressful. It might be because I'm getting older. I wish I had a more definitive answer.

But here's what I know for sure: it's important that I face this weight gain head-on. To talk about it, to own it, and even to give myself grace for it. The road to a healthy lifestyle is never easy... even after you'd been "cured" and reached a healthy weight, you still have to fight for it every damn day. Not all seasons of weight loss/maintenance are the same nor is it as simple as we think it should be. As one of my favorites, Jillian Michaels says, "Transformation is not a future event, it is a present activity." Emphasis on the "present."

So I'll keep on doing what I've been doing and keep sharing about it here. I'm not at a place to make dramatic changes to my every day lifestyle- with the house, school, and the job, I don't know if I could take anymore change- so I will keep on keeping on, striving to make healthy choices each day. And hopefully my weight will level back out and I'll feel more in control of this one part of my life.

Ok, with that off my chest, I hope you have a wonderful week! Meet you back here soon with training updates for my fifth marathon! 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Sparkly Runner is FIVE! {Giveaway Details Below!}

Yesterday, this blog turned five. As in five years old. As in HALF A DECADE!


Way back when I first had the inclination to start a blog, I don't think I ever imagined how positively my life would be impacted by sharing my running adventures with the internet.

When I started writing in 2013, I was a relatively new runner on the verge of a huge life change. I had just moved two hours away from the only home I'd ever known to live with my boyfriend (now husband) and start a new job that was completely out of my comfort zone.

I was 100+ miles from home in a small town that didn't have a lot of folks my age. Besides Matthew and a few co-workers, I really didn't know anyone, let alone anyone in the running community.

So I started writing about running on this blog. Then I started some social media channels to connect with other runners. Pretty soon I was meeting up with strangers from the internet and agreeing to run races with them. I was making friends and meeting people and traveling and experiencing new races... because of this blog.

Suddenly, Matthew and I had an extended family of runners all over the world- all from this corner of the internet.

As I stand on the verge of another series of big life changes- home ownership, graduate school, new job- I can't help but reflect on how much this blog helped me five years ago and how I can't wait to see what the next five years as the "Sparkly Runner" holds.

Thank YOU for reading and running with me these last five years. I've loved every minute of sharing the road with you. Thank you for your support, comments, and community. You ROCK!

To celebrate Sparkly Runner's Fifth Blogiversary, I've teamed up with Altra Running who has generously donated a free pair of Altra Running Shoes to give away to one lucky reader!

That's right, ANY pair of Altra Running Shoes! Huge thank you to Altra for helping me celebrate!

To enter this awesome giveaway, comment on any/all of the following with which pair of Altras you'd want to try:

One winner will be chosen at random- the more times you enter, the more chances you have to win. You can tweet every day for more entries!

The fine print:
This giveaway starts today and ends at 11:59 PM on Thursday, July 26th. The winner will be notified Friday, July 27th by direct message or email and will have 48 hours to respond with requested information (name, address, shoe style, color, and size). If the winner does not respond within 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Winner will be selected at random from the comments/entries on the blog, instagram, facebook, and twitter.

Good luck! And again, thank you for reading!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Race Recap & Review: 2018 Pittsburgh Half Marathon

A few months ago, I ran my fifth Steel Challenge in Pittsburgh, PA. While I've participated in Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend several times before, there's just something about this race that keeps me coming back for more- and 2018 was no different!

Flat runner for a 13.1 mile tour of the steel city.

This year, somehow, I ran a nine minute course PR and my second-fastest half marathon ever crossing in 2:30:01. In 26 half marathons, I've only run two of them in less than 2:31. Only two!

So how did this happen??

I have no idea! Seriously!

You might remember that somehow I also ran a 10 mile PR in March, just a few weeks before Pittsburgh. Can't say it was training- wasn't doing much. Can't say it was speed work- wasn't doing any. Can't say it was strength training or a special diet- definitely wasn't doing this- ha!

So what was it?

The magic of Pittsburgh. 😍

Really- I'm convinced this race and this city are magical.

And this year just had an extra dose of magic.

As per usual, Matthew and I met up with our running ohana early on that Sunday morning and then walked to the corrals together. Matthew and I had already decided to run separately so I dropped him off in C corral and continued walking to D corral with our friend Gloria.

We are pretty cute for 6 am :-)

We had made it into the corral pretty early so we had time to kill. I wandered up to the 2:30 pace group and kinda sorta thought I would hang with them for as long as I could. The pacers told me they would be straight running (I almost always run/walk) so I already had a feeling that this wasn't going to work out. But, when the race finally started and our corral finally got up to the start line, I joined the group and tried to keep up.

While the start of the race was just fine, by mile one I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up with the group. And even though I'd gone in the corral, I had to go to the bathroom again; so shortly after the mile one sign I found a short port-o-potty line and spent about four minutes using the bathroom. By the time I rejoined the race, the pace group was long gone.

I put my headphones in, put my head down, and got to work chipping away at the miles. I soaked in all the sights around me, chatted with other runners (including Candi whom I met from instagram- I love the internet!), and slowly became aware of the fact that I was in PR territory.

My half marathon PR is 2:28:22 from the 2014 Shamrock Half Marathon. I know that to finish a half marathon in less than two hours and thirty minutes, each mile needs to be run at an 11:26 (or less) pace. And somehow, I was running the Pittsburgh Half Marathon with splits close to that target pace.

By mile six, I knew that a sub 2:30 half was actually possible. I stopped taking pictures and focused on getting to the finish line as quickly as I could. However, I did make a few very quick pit stops for a small cup of beer, a cupcake, and a jello shot from friends at mile 10. The people of Pittsburgh really know how to make a runner feel welcome!

Can you think of a better combo than cupcakes
and jello shots?

After the boost of seeing friends at mile 10, the next 3.1 miles flew by. I was still thinking I could get a sub-2:30 if I hustled that last mile. I summoned as much energy as I could, rounded the last corner, saw the finish line in the distance and sprinted as fast as one can after 13 miles, and finished in 2:30:01, just two seconds from a 2:29:59.

Check out that 10th anniversary bling.

While there was just a moment of disappointment from missing the sub-2:30, overall, I was absolutely elated that I had executed a race plan that worked and led to my second-fastest half marathon ever. In fact, my last mile was a 9:47! I can barely run a 9:47 on my best day!

After collecting my smiley cookie and other finisher foods at the end of the race, I walked over to the finisher's village to get my Steel Challenge medal and met up with Matthew.

Will run for smiley cookies.

Unfortunately, Matthew and I had to get right on the road so we weren't able to stick around after the race like we usually do. Instead, we celebrated our race victories on the PA turnpike with rest stop pizza on the way home. 😊

Mmmm, turnpike pizza. 

The Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend never disappoints. I am so grateful I've been able to have five years of memories and miles during this race weekend. If you are on the fence about putting this race on your calendar- don't hesitate! It's a phenomenal race weekend: well-organized, great runner swag, and challenging but fun courses.

Will we be back in 2019? Probably. I can't imagine where else we'd like to spend the first weekend of May! Besides on a cruise or in Disney World. 😉

Bridges for breakfast.

Thank you, Pittsburgh! 

Is there a race/race weekend you've done several times? What do you love about it?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Accountability Monday: 7/9/2018

Good evening!

Today I'm writing you from beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana where I am spending the next week at a conference for work.

While I'm enjoying the conference, it has been so hard to stay on track while away from home! I have very little control over what I'm eating (the conference provides meals) and the schedule is demanding so there isn't much time to work out. But I'm trying to make it work as much as humanly possible. I'm really looking forward to being back and home and in my regular routine.

Monday: 2.26 mile run, 13:17 pace
Wednesday: 3.1 mile run, 12:37 pace
Saturday: 2.37 mile run, 12:41 pace
Sunday: 2.35 mile run, 12:46 pace

Total: 10.08 miles

Man, this summer heat and humidity is killing my pace! I've had to slow down considerably because of the summer weather. Sunday's run was HORRIBLE- the heat was so bad I ended up walking much of the last .75 mile. I am really not built for summer running. 😓

Best Run
Running on fourth of July is always a good time- even if it's not part of an official holiday race! While it was hot and humid and not the greatest running conditions, I still got to sparkle in my patriotic Sparkle Skirt so that's got to count for something. 😍

Bravo Moment
This morning at the hotel gym, I conquered one of my fears- working out in public in front of a mirror!  I don't always know what I'm doing when working out (besides running) so the fact that I grabbed some weights and made up a little cross-training/strength workout AND did it in front of other people is a huge accomplishment for me! And my muscles are sore tonight so I must have done ok for myself, right?

Quote of the Week
In the immortal words of my friend Dory, "just keep swimming!" Applicable to so many situations in life.

That's all for this week! Look for a recap of the Pittsburgh half soon!